Gain- but not loss-related self-perceptions of aging predict mortality over a period of 23 years: A multidimensional approach

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2022 Sep;123(3):636-653. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000412. Epub 2022 Feb 24.


[Correction Notice: An Erratum for this article was reported online in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on Apr 25 2022 (see record 2022-56187-001). In the original article, there was an error in the third sentence in the Combined Model Comprising SPA Dimensions and SA section. The corrected sentence should read as: Again, an increase of gain-related SPA by 1 SD was related to a decrease in risk of death by 12%. All versions of this article have been corrected.] Some 2 decades have passed since Levy et al. (2002) published their seminal study on the impact of self-perceptions of aging (SPA) on mortality over a period of 23 years in this journal; we aimed at replicating and extending these findings against the background of recent discussions in the research on subjective aging. Based on a large German nationwide population-based sample of individuals aged 40 and older (N = 2,400), for whom mortality was also documented over a period of 23 years (1996-2019), the present study is the first to investigate the unique impact of gain- and loss-related SPA and subjective age (SA) as components of subjective aging on mortality. Data were analyzed with hierarchical Cox proportional hazard regressions. The study pointed to the prominent role of gain-related SPA. For individuals who perceived aging as associated with ongoing development risk of death was half that of individuals with less gain-related SPA. Viewing aging as associated with physical or social losses could not predict mortality after controlling for covariates such as age, gender, education, health-related variables, and psychological variables known to predict mortality. Neither could SA predict mortality. When SA and gain- and loss-related SPA were analyzed in a combined model, gain-related SPA remained a significant predictor of mortality. The findings support previous studies on the importance of SPA for mortality. In addition, the results suggest that mainly gain-related SPA (but not loss-related SPA and SA) explain differences in mortality and should thus be addressed in intervention studies. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Self Concept*